Nearly three weeks after the FIFA U-20 World Cup Turkey 2013 got under way, the identity of the two finalists has finally been revealed. France and Uruguay are the two sides who will face off at the Ali Sami Yan Arena in Istanbul on Saturday in a match-up that few would have predicted before the start of the competition.
While the French have always figured among the tournament favourites, the same cannot be said of the Uruguayans, who nevertheless boast more experience at this stage of the competition, having reached the final in 1997, when they needed extra time to get past Ghana. In contrast, this weekend’s showpiece will be a whole new experience for Les Bleuets. On top of that, five members of Juan Verzeri’s Celeste squad also figured in the final of the FIFA U-17 World Cup Mexico 2011.
France booked their place in the final after making their finishing count against a plucky Ghana side, while Uruguay came within three minutes of defeat in normal time before finally seeing off surprise packages Iraq on penalties. FIFA.com rounds-up a day of semi-final drama.
France 2-1 Ghana (Thauvin 43', 74'; Assifuah 47')
Iraq 1-1 Uruguay ( a.e.t. 6-7 pens) (Adnan 34'; Bueno 87')
The gloves have it
When it comes to getting Lady Luck on your side before a big game like a FIFA U-20 World Cup semi-final, no pre-match ritual, superstition or habit can be considered too outlandish. At least that is probably what France striker Yaya Sanogo and Ghana coach Sellas Tetteh were thinking in the countdown to today’s crunch meeting.
The former surprised everyone by taking to the pitch in a fetching pair of gloves, a slightly needless item of clothing given the 30-degree heat in Bursa at kick-off time. After hearing the Marseillaise played the French front man discarded the cold weather accessories.
For his part Tetteh resorted to his lucky polo shirt, the same one he wore for his side’s defeat of Chile in the last eight. Bearing in mind that the Black Satellites came back twice on that occasion before stealing victory with a last-minute winner in extra time, the coach’s sartorial choice did not seem such a bad one. In the end, however, it was Sanogo and his lucky gloves that were on the winning side.
My game is fair play
Players and coaches were anxious to set an example on the day that FIFA put the spotlight on fair play at this the 19th FIFA U-20 World Cup. In both games there were various instances of sportsmanship on the pitch, starting with the France-Ghana tie, during which French keeper Alphonse Areola came to the assistance of a cramp-stricken Baba Mensah even though the ball was still in play. And at the end of the game, smiling Ghana coach Tetteh made a beeline for opposite number Pierre Mankowski to offer him his congratulations and a big hug.
Iraq and Uruguay played out their match in much the same spirit. Following an accidental collision, Iraqi goalkeeper Mohammed Hameed and his team-mate Ali Adnan were both spread-eagled on the ground and required lengthy medical attention. As they were being seen to, Uruguay captain Gaston Silva stayed by their side and checked to see how they were, fulfilling to the letter the message he had read out prior to kick-off: “We pledge to demonstrate our fairness and solidarity now and in the future, both on and off the football field.”
Better late than never
When asked a few days ago who the worst timekeeper in the Uruguay squad was, Charrúa skipper Silva pointed the finger at Gonzalo Bueno. In keeping with his reputation, Bueno left it late again in Wednesday’s semi-final, coming on in the 64th minute with his side trailing 1-0 and popping up with the equaliser with just three minutes remaining. Strangely enough, the move that led to the goal involved the three substitutes introduced by coach Verzeri in the second half: Diego Rolan, that man Bueno and Felipe Avenatti. La Celeste eventually prevailed on penalties, putting an end to a curse that had befallen the other Latin American sides to play at the Huseyin Avni Aker Stadium in Trabzon, where Colombia – on two occasions, El Salvador and Paraguay had all failed to win earlier in the competition.
28 - The number of years since a FIFA U-20 World Cup semi-final was decided on penalties, when Spain beat the hosts in a shootout at USSR 1985. This time around the spoils went to Uruguay, who saw off a Iraq side that has still yet to lose in the competition in normal playing time and who are also the only team to have played three consecutive matches that have gone to extra-time and contested two successive penalty shootouts. In the first of those, against Korea Republic in the quarter-finals, the Asian side enjoyed the luck that would ultimately desert them against the Uruguayans.
Que lindo ver a Uruguay en la final!!!! Felicitaciones a la sub 20!!!!!
— Sebastian Coates (@SebastianCoates) July 10, 2013
"So nice to see Uruguay in the final!!!! Congrats to the U-20!!!!!" Sebastian Coates, defender for the Uruguay senior team
Next up (local times)
Saturday 13 July
Third place match
Ghana-Iraq (Istanbul, 18:00)
France-Uruguay (Istanbul, 21:00)